Friday, January 23, 2009

Fancy Food Show - Winter 2009

DSC03790 Hannah's naturals prizes
Hannah's Delights with Sofi Awards

One of my many passions is food. I love discovering new foods and new flavor combinations, the more unusual the better. The super bowl for foodies is the Fancy Food Show, produced by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) since 1955. NASFT is the organization who awards the Annual Sofi Awards, Oscar’s foodie brother. The summer show is in New York and the winter show is, lucky for me, usually in San Francisco. Sunday I attended this show for the fourth time.

Attendees & Exhibitors
This show is huge. 20,000 food professionals crowd both halls of the Moscone Convention Center all looking for the latest and greatest food-related products. Combine this with 2,000 plus exhibitors, representing over 80 countries, who are eager to show them off. What does this mean? Yes, you guessed it: thousands of tastings! Imagine Costco during the lunch hour times a thousand.

DSC03793 gnocchi maker
Photo by Stephanie

Photo by Jodi

If a product touches food, it was present in this convention. Obviously, food purveyors were there, but so were packaging and shopping bag manufacturers, retail display vendors, food associations, food publishers, and even breath mint vendors. I attend as publisher so I now happily report to duty as a reviewer. To help me with this review, some of my foodie friends came along. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Photo by Stephanie

Photo by Stephanie

It is very easy to overeat at this event. The first year we went, we tasted everything from every booth. We were full, and nauseous, before we got through ten percent of the booths. You could be tasting chocolates in one booth, olives in the next, salts around the world in the booth after that, and gosh now there’s cheesecake tasting. My my my, Mylanta! I now try to sample in sequence of a meal; savory items first, then dessert items. This means that I skip many booths, but it’s impossible to taste everything anyway.


Like in every other industry, awareness of a green planet is a strong focus. This year, organic foods as well as shopping bags were well represented and I was happy to see a few more fair trade organizations.

The natural and organic section grows larger each year, but there is a shift in what is considered healthy. Low carbs and low fat are taking a back seat to omega-3, antioxidants, and MUFA's (mono unsaturated fatty acids).

In previous years we there was always a lot of discussion about what was in a product, now more and more time is spent discussing what is NOT in a product. Vendors, like Willow Cole of Heritage Shortbread,  proudly tell you what's not in the products. "No corn syrup, no modified food starch, no saturated fats..." Hallelujah!
Trendy Ingredients
Walking down the aisles, you hear many overlapping sales pitches and conversations about ingredients. After a while you start to hear the same words over and over again. This year I heard lavender, sea salt, and goji berry repeatedly.

The first time I tasted lavender chocolate was at a Fancy Food Show around three years ago. This year, lavender was teamed with just about anything. Most chocolate vendors offered a lavender flavor, but I also saw lavender salt, shortbread, biscuits, cakes, cookies, honey, spreads, and ice cream. Dakota Angel and I both loved them all, but Jodi said: "It makes me just want to take a bath with it or use it as a face cream."
Artisan sea salts are still hot. No body of salt water in the world is spared; each and every one of them has given its all to season your food. It is passé to just say that your product contains sea salt; you better know which sea the salt was sweated from. Sea salt crystals are actually quite beautiful. It comes in many hues and they each have their own unique flavor: gray Celtic salts, red Hawaiian salt, pink Australian flake salt, or Black Sea salt. I even saw some green salt, but I didn’t stop to find out where it came from, probably because I heard a platter of prosciutto calling my name.

Goji berries, a heavy lifter in the antioxidant arena, are touted in many jams, smoothies, chocolates, and toppings. After a while, I began to think that no blended fruit product was complete unless it had goji berries in it.

That’s it for today; stay tuned, because next time I will tell you our favorites.


Emily said...

Wow! That looks absolutely amazing. I didn't know such a thing existed. Thank you for your recent comment/compliment.

Yoli said...

Oh my God what a delight! Pass me a cookie!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Jemm,
It is amazing indeed! I feel fortunate to be able to take part.

Dear Yoli,
Sure, no problem. I got lots and lots and lots. Catch!

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, yum. I would have been very, very happy just with the chocolates. Imagine!

paris parfait said...

I never attended this show - looks like fun!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
The chocolates were absolutely divine! I salivate just thinking about them.

Dear Tara,
I learned about this show by accident; it is glorious!

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